June 25, 2007 — By Associated Press
WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- Ecuador says tourism is threatening the Galapagos Islands and has asked UNESCO to add the habitat that inspired the theory of evolution to its endangered list, the culture agency said Friday.
The U.N. agency's World Heritage Committee will consider Ecuador's request at a weeklong meeting that begins in New Zealand on Saturday, chairman Tumu te Heuheu said.
The Galapagos Islands, about 620 miles off Ecuador's Pacific coast, are home to unique animal species that inspired Charles Darwin's ideas on evolution. They are also Ecuador's top tourist attraction.
The country's president, Rafael Correa, says the islands are suffering an environmental crisis and has called for restrictions on tourists.
The islands have "a very fragile ecosystem and there is a need to manage those activities," Te HeuHeu said.
UNESCO protects 830 sites around the world that have what it describes as "outstanding universal values." The Galapagos gained World Heritage Site status in 1978.
The Tower of London is another World Heritage Site the organization will consider listing as "in danger" when it meets in the southern city of Christchurch. The 900-year-old fortress once towered over the city but now skyscrapers threaten the view from its turreted towers.
Some 31 World Heritage Sites are already on the danger list. Besides tourism, the threats include natural disasters, pillaging and pollution.
Delegates will also consider applications to add at least another 45 new sites -- including the Sydney Harbor Bridge and the Sydney Opera House in Australia -- to the World Heritage list.
The meeting will also examine how climate change is affecting World Heritage sites and ways to protect them from natural disasters.
Source: Associated Press